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Fibaro Flood Sensor review: Fibaro Flood Sensor boasts versatility and clever design

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The majority of home insurance policies don't cover flood damage, which can make a flooded basement one of the most costly disasters for homeowners. So depending on where you live, flood sensors can be as important as fire or CO2 detectors. But the Fibaro Flood Sensor aims to be more than just your average moisture detector.

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8.4

Fibaro Flood Sensor

The Good

The Fibaro Flood Sensor combines clever design with an open interface, allowing users to creatively pair it with sirens, complementary sensors, and more.

The Bad

The tilt sensor can be hit-or-miss, and the $60 price tag is definitely steep, especially if you want to monitor multiple areas at risk of water damage.

The Bottom Line

The Fibaro won't be for everyone, but its versatility and reliable design make it one of the best water sensors for homes at risk of flooding.

Most moisture sensors on the market, like the SmartThings Sensor or the Aeotec Sensor, alert users when a probe extending from the device comes into contact with water. They send the alerts using low-power communication protocols like Z-Wave or ZigBee -- communication languages that require a hub to translate them into languages your phone can receive, like text messages or push notifications

Fibaro also depends on a Z-Wave hub, and I used SmartThings. But this Flood Sensor features a wider array of design and software features that distinguish it from its competition and contribute to a sleek and versatile product. The biggest drawback of the Fibaro Sensor is its price: at $60 (£55), it costs about one and a half times as much as its connected competitors. But for those who live in a flood plain or whose basements turn into reservoirs every spring, the Fibaro will be well worth the price.

Fibaro floats above the rest (pictures)

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Setup

The Fibaro Flood Sensor is easy enough to set up, but the directions are somehow both convoluted and incomplete. For instance, the directions include sections like device specifications, technical information and general info about Fibaro's whole integration system. But they say only this about pairing the device with your Z-Wave hub: "Use the TMP button to include the Fibaro Flood Sensor into the Z-Wave Network." What the directions don't say is that you have to press the button three times and screw the top back on, a simple enough procedure that I finally had to call support to figure out.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

While Fibaro is working on a quick-start guide that will explain this process for SmartThings users, and its own proprietary home integration system offers directions through the app, I was still baffled by the inadequate paper directions. If Fibaro plans to integrate with other systems in the future, it will need to fix this problem.

Fortunately, the physical setup of the sensor is simple. You can put the Fibaro Flood Sensor wherever a water leak might happen once you've synced up the device to your hub. Unlike flood detectors that have wired probes requiring you to fasten them to the wall or floor in question, you can place the Fibaro right on the ground. I like this approach because it cuts out complications for setup, and the Sensor won't get in the way because most places you'd put it are behind appliances or in basement corners.

Design

The Fibaro Flood Sensor's design is by far its strongest element. The shape, cleverly modeled after a water droplet, is simple and unobtrusive. Some flood sensors, like the one from SmartThings, have plastic legs and two separate probes emerging from the bottom of the sensor body. As a result, these probes are suspended above the surface upon which the sensor rests and can miss dampness.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

The bottom of the Fibaro, by contrast, features three gold-plated probes that act as legs for the plastic body. These probes, though small, telescope just enough to account for sloped or otherwise uneven floors. All flood sensors require water to contact two probes, which creates a circuit and alerts the device of a possible flood. The Fibaro's three probes, spread farther apart than many other sensors', allow a slightly greater area to be covered, so the sensors are less likely to miss a small leak.

Inside the Flood Sensor, Fibaro has also streamlined the design. Most users will only use the single button and see the single LED, but a row of terminals also opens up the possibility of creative tech combinations. For example, you can connect the flood sensor to a permanent power source, alarm systems or even a camera that will begin recording when the probes sense water.

I really like the internal terminals for a few reasons. First, you can completely ignore them and still have a solid product. But they also provide options for security expansion at any budget -- from a couple bucks for wires to use as additional probes to a couple hundred for a camera system that will begin recording when a flood starts. The terminals also allow for personalization, so the needs of a variety of users -- from the casual consumer to the intense DIYer -- can be met. The directions even provide helpful diagrams for setting up these integrations.

This unlikely combination of streamlined interface and optional build-out capabilities, along with nice touches like flotation and a beeping alarm, make the Fibaro Flood Sensor a balanced and exciting addition to a smart-home setup.

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Chris Monroe/CNET

Features

While the Fibaro boasts a clever design, it is a little too light on features. It senses water about as well as any other moisture detector on the market, which is to say, you'll get an alert if water is touching two of its probes. But where Fibaro could've distinguished itself with a humidity sensor or some other feature to improve its flood sensing focus, it instead measures temperature with surprising specificity (e.g., this morning the house was precisely 71.46 degrees F).

The one creative feature is a tilt sensor that alerts users if the Fibaro is removed from where it is supposed to be. While I appreciate this feature -- especially given that this Sensor is not anchored to a wall or floor like some others -- it only works half the time. If the Fibaro is flipped over, it will almost always beep and alert you to its displacement, but if it is bumped and slides away, it rarely alerts you.

Overall, though the Fibaro's tilt sensor might distinguish it from some competitors, it simply doesn't contribute enough to its flood sensing capabilities to make much difference.

Conclusion

Put simply, the Fibaro Flood Sensor works well. It detects water, integrates with SmartThings and has impressive Z-Wave range. Although the build-out functions might be intimidating to casual consumers, the Fibaro's flexibility makes it a good investment for anyone hoping to put together a home disaster security system. The only feature that suffered some glitches when I was working with it was the tilt sensor, which has limited functionality.

If you need a sensor for a particular drain -- and that's all -- then I'd recommend one of the $40 ones you can get from SmartThings or Aeon Labs. But for most other people, the Fibaro is a solid buy -- especially if you live in a flood plain, if your pipes are prone to burst, or if your basement floods often.

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8.4

Fibaro Flood Sensor

Score Breakdown

Features 7Usability 8Design 10Performance 9